SBD/Issue 102/Olympics

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  • USOC CEO Scott Blackmun Meets With Jacques Rogge For First Time

    Jacques Rogge (l), Scott Blackmun Held A
    20-Minute Meeting Monday In Vancouver
    USOC CEO Scott Blackmun met with IOC President Jacques Rogge "for the first time Monday afternoon in a 20-minute meeting" in Vancouver, according to Karen Rosen of AROUND THE RINGS. Blackmun was joined by USOC Chair Larry Probst and U.S. IOC members Anita DeFrantz and Jim Easton. Probst said, "We talked a little bit about how the USOC can engage more productively with the IOC and he provided some very specific ideas about that." Probst noted another meeting has been scheduled for later this week and "we hope that we'll continue to have good discussions." Rosen reported the USOC and IOC have agreed to "begin discussions about the controversial revenue-sharing agreement in 2013 and Probst said there was no talk about changing that timeline." Blackmun indicated that the USOC "raised the point about having a greater USOC presence at international events and Rogge agreed." The proposed U.S. Olympic Network "did not come up during the meeting" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 2/8). IOC Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg also sat in on the meeting and said, "It was a short meeting, but it was very positive. We will meet again to continue the discussions" (AP, 2/8).

    IN NEED OF REPAIR: In N.Y., Amy Schoenfeld noted USOC officials believe that they can "repair relationships at home and abroad" with Blackmun now on board. But the committee "has a lot of work to do." Former USOC Chief Communications Officer Mike Moran: "It's been a dysfunctional organization. The challenges it faces are the most significant to the American Olympic movement since the boycott of the Moscow games, which nearly killed the USOC." Blackmun said that the USOC is "unlikely to bid for the Games in 2020 or even 2022," but Schoenfeld noted the organization still must "keep domestic sponsors and viewers interested." It also must "repair its relationship" with the IOC and other national Olympic committees "while protecting money it receives from the international group" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).



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  • Rogge Says VANOC Unlikely To Need IOC Bailout After Olympics

    Rogge Believes VANOC Can Avoid
    Deficit Without Aid From IOC
    IOC President Jacques Rogge yesterday said that VANOC is "so financially flush he is confident the organization can balance its operating budget without relying on an unprecedented offer of IOC assistance" that was set for as much as C$22M, according to Rod Mickleburgh of the GLOBE & MAIL. When asked if VANOC "can avoid a deficit without the aid" of the IOC, Rogge said, "Oh yes, absolutely. I want to be very clear on that." The IOC last August, "in an Olympic first," privately agreed to "help bail out -- if necessary -- hard-pressed 2010 Olympic organizers." Part of VANOC's concern was the loss of C$30M in "hoped-for sponsorship revenue from the IOC itself," as the economic downturn "whittled the number of IOC corporate sponsors to nine from its target of 11." Rogge said that VANOC CEO John Furlong and Exec VP & Deputy CEO Dave Cobb "assured him at a meeting Monday morning that they are confident their budget will be balanced, once all the bills and revenues are toted up." However, Mickleburgh reports VANOC officials "seemed caught off-guard by Mr. Rogge's remarks ... and appeared less sanguine about his rosy prediction of a balanced budget without the IOC needing to pitch in." VANOC VP/Communications Renee Smith-Valade said in an e-mail, "Our plan is to stage the Games with a balanced budget. The IOC has confirmed that once the Games are over, and all of the expenses and revenues are known and final, if we need financial support from them to deliver on that goal, they're willing to participate." Meanwhile, Rogge said that there is "no worry about the IOC's cash situation." Rogge: "The finances of the IOC are in good shape" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/9).

    DEALING WITH PROTESTS: Rogge yesterday said that the Vancouver Games "remain fair play -- within limits -- for protesters." Rogge: "We accept people protesting. That is a free democratic expression. What we want is no violence, and we want the people to respect the laws of the country, and then there is no problem" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/9). However, in Vancouver, Damian Inwood reports Olympic security police indicated that they "won't hesitate to 'ramp up' their forces at a moment's notice to deal with illegal protests when an anti-Games rally heads for B.C. Place Stadium on Friday." RCMP Staff Sergeant and Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit spokesperson Mike Cote: "We're not going to stand by and wait until things get out of hand." Inwood notes an estimated 1,000-1,500 protesters "plan to rally at 3 p.m. at Vancouver Art Gallery before heading to B.C. Place" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/9).

    CONCERNED ABOUT DOPING: In Vancouver, Jeff Lee reports Rogge also "expressed concern" about the high number of Russian athletes "who have tested positive for doping offences in advance" of the Vancouver Games. He said that he is "aware of the problem and raised it" with Russia President Dmitry Medvedev. Rogge also "defended the right" of Russia biathlete Olga Medvedtseva to "participate at the Vancouver Games after serving a suspension for using drugs" during the '06 Turin Games (VANCOUVER SUN, 2/9).

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  • Bob Costas, Al Michaels Lead NBC's Olympic Roster Of Broadcasters

     
    NBC today announced its roster of 53 commentators for its 17-day coverage of the Vancouver Games, led by Bob Costas, who will once again serve as the net's primetime host. Al Michaels will serve as the daytime host in his NBC Olympics debut, while Mary Carillo returns as both late-night host and Olympic correspondent. Bill Patrick will host the hockey coverage from Vancouver, while Fred Roggin will again serve as curling host. NBC's Olympic correspondents include Cris Collinsworth, who will provide on-the-ground reports throughout Vancouver, and Dick Button. In addition, Terry Gannon will host "Vancouver Olympic News Center" daily on Universal Sports along with Lindsay Soto. Gannon also will host "The Vancouver Figure Skating Hour" each day on the net. Jimmy Roberts will anchor "Meet the Olympic Press," a daily roundtable discussion with veteran reporters (NBC).

    LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE? The CP's Gary Mason noted while NBC "expects to lose money televising" the Games, it "also anticipates near record-setting audience numbers." NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said that the network is expected to lose around $200M because "negotiations with advertisers took place amid a profound recessionary environment." He said that companies "were willing to buy ads," but just "not at prices NBC was asking." Ebersol: "They reached a line in the sand and they said 'that's it, we're not going to pay over it.'" But he "doesn't think it reflects, as some do, a loss of faith in the Olympics as a vehicle to sell products." Ebersol is "quite bullish about the Games" overall. He said, "This is only the second Winter Olympics in history that will have over 200 million watching -- only Lillehammer had more" (CP, 2/5). Meanwhile, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium said that it is "too soon to tell" how it will do financially during the Games. Broadcast rights in Canada for the Games jumped to C$28M for the '06 Turin Olympics from C$12M for Lillehammer in '94, and hit a "record-breaking" C$90M for Vancouver (TORONTO STAR, 2/9).

    NBC Plans To Stream Only About 400 Hours Of
    Live Events, Down From Beijing Coverage In '08
    TO SERVE & PROTECT: MEDIAWEEK's Mike Shields reported NBC for its coverage of the Games is "de-emphasizing its focus on streaming the games live on the Web in favor of short highlighted clips." NBC will "only stream hockey and curling events live on the Web this year -- roughly 400 hours of video." NBC Sports & Olympics Senior VP/ Digital Media Perkins Miller said, "One of the things we learned in Beijing is that people really go to the Web for highlights. ... People are not dying to watch lots of long-form content on a 13-inch screen." Shields reported NBC also is "doing its damnedest to make sure that fans can't find unauthorized or illegally posted live footage of any events." While "tech-savvy fans can find ways to stream long-form events," the net plans to "actively police the Web during the games, using tools to crawl the Web and block content automatically whenever possible" (MEDIAWEEK.com, 2/7). In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes NBC is "obsessed with protecting its money-losing investment in these Games." The net reportedly "hired interns from the local college, then informed them their primary duty was to spy on rival broadcasters to make certain they do not infringe on rights agreements" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). In Seattle, Brier Dudley reported viewers attempting to watch live coverage and full-event replay on NBCOlympics.com for the first time will "have to prove that they subscribe to premium-cable service." Fans only had to "provide a Zip code" for previous Games (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/8).

    ARE THE OLYMPICS STILL VALUABLE? In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton noted questions are "being raised about the relevance of an expensive, three-week global sports carnival." These will be the "first Olympics shot entirely" in HD, and "that can't hurt." But the "challenge for NBC will be how to present the bell cow of every Winter Olympics, figure skating, when the U.S. women are not expected to be in the medal hunt." LeBreton: "The Olympic Winter Games are back in North America, back in prime time. Ready and waiting for your high-definition scrutiny. Let the $820 million TV gamble begin" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7).

    STILL IN DEMAND: In a cover-story for BROADCASTING & CABLE, Marisa Guthrie notes despite the "bleak financial outlook" for the Vancouver Games, NBC is one of several networks "considering lining up for a shot at the next round" of U.S. Olympic rights. The worth of "such an endeavor is increasingly uncertain," and the next package of the '14 Sochi and '16 Rio de Janeiro Games "is a mixed bag for potential U.S. rights holders." Sochi is "eight hours ahead of New York," but NBC Olympics Exec VP & Exec Producer David Neal contends that Sochi is "nevertheless attractive and shares similarities" with the '02 Salt Lake City Games. Sports media consultant Neal Pilson: "It's a question of setting expectation levels. I'm sure Comcast and GE and NBC have had discussions about the upcoming negotiations, and I would think that given the importance of the Olympics to NBC, Comcast would support an NBC effort to retain that franchise." But with ESPN/ABC expected to bid as well, SNL Kagan senior analyst Deana Myers said, "The last few Olympics have been break-even or just a little profit. It makes sense for the Olympics to be on a sports network because they can (amortize) more of the content" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 2/8 issue).

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  • Speedskater Shani Davis Takes Different Approach To Marketing

    Davis Little Known In The U.S. Despite 
    His Successful Speedskating Career
    Speedskater Shani Davis, who is "poised to become one of the most decorated Winter Olympians ever to compete" for the U.S., is "little known and poorly compensated at home," according to Michael Sokolove of the N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE. Davis' photo is not "among the dozens of pictures on U.S. Speedskating's official Web site," which is an "oddity that would be akin to the Yankees' airbrushing Derek Jeter out of all their promotional material." U.S. Speedskating Exec Dir Bob Crowley said Davis "requested that we not have any photos of him on the site, and we honored that request." Davis also "opts out of the 'athlete's agreement' with U.S. Speedskating and the modest stipend that comes with it, giving him more latitude to seek his own sponsors." Davis in December called Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, whose "Colbert Nation" sponsors U.S. Speedskating, a "jerk," perhaps in response to a "satirical skit Davis considered offensive to Canadians." That move did not help Davis' "standing with the public or his sponsorship possibilities." Davis "softened in January and appeared on 'The Colbert Report,' even agreeing to a mock 500-meter race with Colbert." But Davis "certainly does not seem overly driven by the prospect of money, or at least not enough to plaster on a fake smile when he feels like scowling." Sokolove writes it is "possible we have become so used to athletes eager to cash in -- to convert their gold medals into lucrative deals selling Wheaties, watches, cars, sports drinks -- that he, by contrast, seems strange and off-putting" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 2/7 issue). SI's Alexander Wolff notes Davis currently "vagabonds between rinks in Salt Lake City and Milwaukee with the help of sponsorship funds provided by three Dutch companies, as well as Nike" (SI, 2/8 issue).

    OLYMPIC AMBASSADOR: In Seattle, Ron Judd wrote there is a reason U.S. speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno is the "first guy you see when NBC starts endlessly pitching the 2010 Vancouver Games to the public." Ohno has "grown, before our eyes, from a precocious little inline-skate punk" into a "literal Olympics ambassador -- a role which, at the advanced age of 27, he takes quite seriously." Ohno's "off-ice exploits have given him the sort of fame that few Olympians achieve," and "unlike most Winter Olympians, Ohno has enough sponsorship money to keep financially comfortable." But "despite what he calls 'a lot of green lights in the Hollywood area,' especially after winning" ABC's "Dancing With The Stars," Ohno "chose instead to return for one last shot at Olympic glory" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/7).

    MAKING THE GAMES HER OWN? The CP's Jim Morris write U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn "easily could become the international face" of the Vancouver Games if you combine her "persona with her potential to win three or more gold medals." NBC's Brian Williams said Vonn is the "one athlete I can think of that would be a face of the Games not only in North America but in Europe and the Far East." Williams: "She is so well known in Europe and so [dominant] in women's skiing." Morris noted NBC has "already made Vonn the centre of its marketing campaign for the Games," and "crowning an American queen of the ski hill would boost NBC's television ratings much like" swimmer Michael Phelps did during the '08 Beijing Games (CP, 2/7). "Access Hollywood" reporter Maria Menounos noted Vonn's "singular devotion to her sport combined with those Hollywood good looks has made her a rising star that may well reach Phelpsian proportion. She already has some 10 endorsement deals, but the uncontrollable course and weather conditions inherent in ski racing make the Michael Phelps comparison unfair." Menounos added, "Hollywood may be in her future … and she'd love to try 'Dancing With The Stars.'" Vonn: "I think it would be fun" ("Access Hollywood," 2/9).

    FOUR PILLARS OF STRENGTH: In Dallas, Barry Horn noted NBC is depending on Davis, Ohno, Vonn and snowboarder Shaun White "to help hype its coverage." All four athletes "should all be center stage on prime time Feb. 17, which some in the NBC family are referring to as 'White Hot Wednesday'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/7).

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  • Olympic Notes: A Second Torch Cauldron Could Be Lit Outdoors

    AROUND THE RINGS' Mackin & Hula reported there is increased speculation "that a second cauldron will be lit in Vancouver for the Olympics, one outdoors, in addition to the caldron for the opening ceremony under the dome of BC Place." The additional torch cauldron is "believed to be set in a waterfront plaza next to the International Broadcast Centre." A flame "would allow broadcasters to use a 'beauty shot' of the flame against the sea and the snow-capped mountains to the north, a view the caldron inside BC Place does not afford." VANOC VP/Communications Renee Smith-Valade confirmed that a cauldron also is "planned for Whistler, site of ski and sliding events" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 2/8).

    Nike's Medal Stand Outfit Expected
    To Be Most-Photographed Uniform
    DRESSED FOR SUCCESS: In L.A., Emili Vesilind wrote for sportswear and athletic companies, the Olympics are the "Oscars of promotional events." Dressing athletes "on or off the ice is a chance to be seen by a global audience and to align with one of the most beloved events in existence." For a company like Under Armour -- which designed the uniforms for the U.S. bobsled, skier-cross and mogul teams the Vancouver Games -- sponsorship is a "chance to home in on its consumer base." When designing the "high-tech body suits and pants-jackets ensembles," UA "took design cues from 1970s action-hero icons, including Evel Knievel and Captain America." Meanwhile, Vesilind noted Nike has "created what's sure to be the most-photographed U.S. uniform of the Winter Games -- the medal stand outfit." All U.S. medal winners will wear a "down 'puffer' jacket in a navy, ombre-dyed nylon, emblazoned with a Nike swoop and the Vancouver Olympics logo on the front and a huge crimson 'USA' on the back" (L.A. TIMES, 2/7).

    CRAVE THE WAVE: In Boston, Thomas Grillo reported Ocean Spray has begun to "pour 13 million cranberries into a floating display -- in the shape of the Canadian Olympic Committee logo -- in the city of Richmond, host of the speedskating competitions, and pay tribute to that region's largest agricultural crop." The 30,000 pounds of cranberries "will come from bogs around Richmond, located 14 miles south of Vancouver" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8).

    WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Going to Vancouver? If so, let us know if you are willing to share your perspective on the Games with THE DAILY. Also, if you plan to tweet, join us in using #olybiz, so we can follow your reports on the ground.

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